Sunday, June 11, 2023

Sunday morning music


It may seem odd to say that a rock group is a "blast from the past" when they were recording and performing right up until last year.  Nevertheless, their main claim to fame, and the period of their greatest popularity, was the late 1960's and early 1970's, after which they sank into relative obscurity compared to their peers.  I'm talking about the British progressive rock group Procol Harum.

Their founder, composer, pianist and vocalist, Gary Brooker, formed the group in 1966.  The following year they released their first single, "A Whiter Shade of Pale".  It became a worldwide hit, one of the iconic songs of the so-called "Summer of Love", and remains their biggest single success.  It's sold more than 10 million copies, and has been covered more than 1,000 times by other artists.

This version has an extra two verses, which are seldom heard.

The group followed this initial smash success with "Homburg", which also became very popular.

That same year, the song "Conquistador" appeared on Procol Harum's eponymous first album.  It was re-released as a live-performance single in 1972.  It, too, became iconic of the band's music, and is my favorite of their singles.

Their 1969 album "A Salty Dog" included this eponymous song, which some critics call Procol Harum's "finest hour".  Its classical and mythological roots stand out clearly.

The band released many more albums and singles over the years, but none achieved the popularity and chart performance of their early records.  Just as an example of their later years, here's one from their 2017 album "Novum", their final release before Gary Brooker's death from cancer last year.  It's titled "Sunday Morning".

Whilst not one of my favorite progressive rock groups, I always appreciated Brooker's classical roots and how he expressed them in modern music.  Too many groups just "made a noise", whereas his songs were carefully constructed melodies.  Many of them could be easily rewritten for a full orchestral performance, if necessary, IMHO.  He was widely respected by his peers, including more successful groups such as the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull.



mobius said...

I'm a fan of pale and conquistador.. but he should have recruited a voice.

BobF said...

A Whiter Shade of Pale: Came back from SEA in August '67 and don't remember hearing it over there, but certainly do from when I got back. Proposed in September and married the following year. One of the few "haunting" songs I've ever appreciated.

Dr. Red Guy said...

A few years back, a BBC survey/study determined that "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was the most played song in public places (in the UK) for the previous 75 years. Bohemian Rhapsody was #2, and "All I Have to do is Dream" by the Everly Brothers was #3.

Gerry said...

I believe they are the only band that listed a member as poet.

Old NFO said...

Ah yes, Whiter shade of Pale! Classic!!!

boron said...

I like and agree with everything.
If I may, I'd like to change just one comment from:
"Too many groups just 'made a noise'," to "Most groups just 'made a noise',".

FeralFerret said...

One of my favorite groups of all time. Their music was complex without being convoluted, if that makes sense.

Dan said...

Almost all of the classic rockers from the 60's and 70's got their start in classical music, being taught it by music teachers in school. Thus they were able to use that knowledge in different ways creating different music.
Now very very few "rock stars" know a damn thing about actual music theory. If it weren't for synthesizers, auto-tune and computers they couldn't produce jack shiite. Many can't even play more than one instrument...some not even one.

Anonymous said...

Was he afraid of express his Christianity (assuming he was Christian)?

It looks like he consciously chose to reject the obvious rhyme:

Sunday morning, Sunday morning
Don't have time to take no rest
'Cos every minute's more holy to me
It always makes me feel so free

“Makes me feel so BLESSED”

Instead he chose (sarcastically?) to insert a paean to the (invented/inverted) 60’s highest value: “free”

Hopefully I’ll be able to discuss this with him in Heaven, either way I’ll have an answer.